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eHRAF World Cultures

eHRAF World Cultures contains ethnographic collections covering all aspects of cultural and social life. Information is organized by cultures and ethnic groups and the full-text sources are subject-indexed at the paragraph level.

eHRAF World Cultures

How do I access it? 

What is it?

eHRAF World Cultures is a systematically organized collection of thousands of books and articles on cultures from all regions of the world. The purpose of eHRAF is to facilitate analysis and comparison of specific topics between cultures. It may be used to find information on particular cultures, ethnic or immigrant groups, and information on beliefs, superstitions, or subjects, such as political structure, architecture, kinship units, or settlement patterns. This ethnographic database currently contains over one million pages of indexed information on more than 400 different cultural, ethnic, religious, and national groups around the world, and the full-text sources are subject-indexed at the paragraph level.

There are two ways to find documents in eHRAF:

  • search by keyword
  • browse by culture, subject, or text/document

The full-text documents (books, articles, and dissertations) are indexed and organized according to HRAF's comprehensive culture and subject classification systems: the Outline of World Cultures and the Outline of Cultural Materials 

What can I use it for?

  • studying individual cultures
  • cross-cultural research (See eHRAF's Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research for additional info)

Subject Areas:

Mostly cultural, social, and evolutionary anthropology; archaeology (including ethnoarchaeology, experimental archaeology and comparative archaeology); cross-cultural studies; ethnology; ethnographic studies; folklore (emphasis on non-Western literature); linguistics; museum and material culture studies; ethnomedicine; ethnobotany; ethnosociology; ethnohistory; nursing and ethnomedicine, ethnopsychology; childhood studies; political anthropology; anthropology of art; and religious studies.

Please browse the list of Cultures and Topics covered in eHRAF World Cultures to determine whether HRAF’s uniquely indexed and searchable database could also benefit research in areas outside social sciences, including agricultural and animal studies, pharmacology, disease prevention and disaster response, and environmental studies and energy conservation.


  • Designed to facilitate worldwide or other comparative studies of cultures.
  • Focus on in-depth descriptions of cultural and social life written by observers (usually anthropologists) past and present.
  • Includes standardized culture summaries covering economy, social organization and more.
  • Focus is on cultures rather than countries. For example, in the United States and Canada, Native American and First Nations are included as well some immigrant cultures.
  • Great teaching tool for students to learn how ethnic cultures (e.g. the San) are associated with countries (e.g.Namibia), major regions (e.g. Africa), subregions (e.g. Southern Africa) and even with subsistence types (e.g. hunter-gatherers).
  • Distance learning tool with personalized webinar support to teach online undergraduate and graduate student courses. Ideal for interdisciplinary, ethnographic and cross-cultural studies.

Outline of World Cultures

The Outline of World Cultures identifies cultural groupings and simplifies the process of cross cultural research. Each distinct culture within HRAF has been assigned an alphanumeric OWC code. For example:

        Mexican Americans - use Chicanos, N007

        Scottish - use Highland Scots, ES10

Please note that not every culture listed in the OWC is represented by a file. The OWC is intended primarily as a means of classifying cultural entities rather than serving as a list of cultures listed in HRAF. Due to variations in spelling, proper names, and changes in terminology over time, it can be easy to miss relevant research related to specific cultures. The OWC cross-references all related cultures and assigns each related group the same identifier.

Outline of Cultural Materials

The Outline of Cultural Materials is a list of subjects used to index the texts contained in the HRAF collection. The OCM is comprised of approximately eighty broad terms and over seven hundred narrower terms or OCM sub-categories. Each subject within HRAF has been assigned a numeric OCM code, and each OCM contains a description of the subject and related subjects. For example:

        230 - Animal Husbandry

        610 - Kin Groups

        840 - Reproduction

                844 - Childbirth

                847 - Abortion and Infanticide